#1 Office/Geek Romance Hybrid
Being a nerd can be tough, especially if you’re self-conscious about it. 26-year-old Narumi Momose knows this all too well, as every boyfriend she has ever had broke up with her after finding out that she’s obsessed with anime, manga, and games. She even had to look for new work after everybody at her old office found out that she’s an otaku. This time, however, she’s determined to keep her nerdiness a secret. A plan that immediately fails when she is reunited with her childhood friend Hirotaka Nifuji, who promptly asks if she still goes to Comiket every year.
Though they are off to a bad start, Narumi and Hirotaka soon begin to realize that they may have feelings for each other. An exciting turn of events, because office romances are my favorite subgenre of romance anime. I like the familiar setting, I enjoy stories that center around more adult characters, and romcom antics just go together so well with an office setting. Wotakoi then blends this with the geek romance genre, which is also a favorite of mine. Probably ranks just a slight notch below office romances actually.
Socially-awkward, nerdy protagonists that are attempting to date each other can be cringeworthy, but when done well it can become relatable and very funny. Wotakoi is absolutely a success story for this subgenre. It’s a lighthearted and comedic tale about two weirdos that are super-passionate about their hobbies, yet also manage to have healthy, mature relationships. It’s a positive portrayal of what nerds can be like while still touching on the awkward, sometimes childish sides associated with the stereotype.
#2 Two great couples
The primary couple are of course Narumi and Hirotaka, who have some great synergy between each other. Narumi presents herself as a proper office girl: upbeat, polite, and sociable within the restraints of workplace etiquette. She messes up from time to time, but she is charming enough that she can get away with the occasional slip-up. She reminded me of Kare Kano‘s Yukino, in that she does a great job at maintaining a façade of being a “normal” person. Even though she is secretly a goofball who would marry an anime character if she could.
Hirotaka, by comparison, is completely upfront about who he is. He’s not ashamed to pull out a Vita during lunchbreak or bring up video games in casual conversation. That’s probably a good thing, because video games are just about the only thing on his mind. He’s blunt and anti-social, but not unaffectionate or without charisma. He struggles to express himself, but he does really care for his friends, Narumi in particular, and often breaks from his usual stone-faced indifference to show such. I really enjoyed watching the romance between him and Narumi develop. Their interactions together are just so pleasant to watch and the challenges they overcome together reveal just how much depth there is to these two characters.
Backing them up, we got the secondary couple consisting of Hanako Koyanagi and Tarou Kabakura; a professional cosplayer and closeted yuri fan respectively. They are the more senior employees at the office, but their relationship together is very immature. They love each other, but get into constant arguments that sometimes transition from banal differences in opinion to saying genuinely hurtful things to each other. Their friendship with Narumi and Hirotaka encourages them to work on their own relationship, but developments on that front are admittedly sparse within the anime’s limited runtime.
#3 Constant references
Anime has gotten more brazen in recent years when it comes to referencing other media. Sure, it still can’t put a proper Starbucks in there, but Wotakoi loves to show off various other anime, manga, and games, without fretting over copyright.
Monster Hunter is especially popular. It features in many scenes where the cast is playing games together and frequently comes with actual in-game footage, which is unique every time. It shows that a lot of effort was put into these shout-outs, which in turn reflects positively on the passion of both the characters and anime’s creators. There are many other cameos from all kinds of series, both visual and spoken. The cast gets into discussions about Neon Genesis Evangelion, they buy manga and merch for series that actually exist, and get together to play Mario Kart.
I find this very important, because anime characters talking about other anime is a great way to make them relatable to the audience. My favorite scene in Wotakoi just has the cast get together and talk about anime characters they used to have a crush on. It’s goofy, but it makes for believable banter and tells us a lot about their personalities. In similar fashion, I felt a strong connection with Narumi thanks to her frequent outbursts towards Monster Hunter‘s tedious RNG. That’s a pain I am all too familiar with.
#4 Josei feel
Being an adaptation of a josei manga, Wotakoi has an artstyle and approach to character design that you don’t see in anime very often. There’s a softness and warmth to the visuals that makes this a very pleasant show to look at.
Narumi embodies this appeal perfectly. She has long, peach-colored hair and is often seen in her office get-up, which uses lighter browns. She also has larger, shoujo-styled eyes with yellow-brownish irises, which makes her more expressive and sets her apart from the other characters, who all have narrower eyes. It’s a brilliant design, which manages to look mature while still being incredibly cute.
While I loved the anime’s coloring and lighting, Fujita’s skill as an artist is not to be underestimated either. I was first introduced to Wotakoi through volume 1 of its manga, where the art is just as expressive and beautiful as in the anime. The manga is also far more consistent, whereas A-1 Pictures often struggles with movement and expressions. The anime doesn’t look ugly by any means, but you’ll notice that it looks off from time to time.